This issue has been a hot topic in the media for a while, but in light of recent developments I wanted to talk about it on my blog. The debate over whether the U.S. should let Syrian refugees into the country has only worsened the divide that exists within our country, but this is nothing compared to the horrible things that are happening in Syria. To say that the country is experiencing a “humanitarian crisis” would be an understatement and even though the Obama administration has been trying to convince Russia to send aid to suffering civilians and allow impartial people to come in and escort refugees out of the country, nothing has yet to be done. If anything, Russia has only made the issue worse. As a result of the conflicts between the Syrian government and rebel forces, millions have fled the country to other countries around the world, including the U.S., seeking asylum. Many places have taken them in with open arms, but others are more reluctant to do so. Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and France have shed light on the reality that groups like ISIS are hiding amongst the refugees to get into western countries and launch attacks. This has only increased terrorist paranoia and accusations of Islamophobia towards groups who show concern about the dangers of letting refugees in the country. But while this debate within the U.S. continues, millions of men, women, and children are being tortured and murdered by their own government or forced into fighting in the government’s military. Cries for help echo throughout the world, yet we still continue to sit and watch the situation unfold. This will only worsen while the Syrian government continues to gain control over the rebellion forces. Continuing to argue about the issue within our borders is not going to help the innocents. Action is the only way to bring an end to the violence.
Reading more about this situation reminds me of the Rwandan genocide that took place back in 1994. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandan citizens were slaughtered because of conflicts between two groups in their country, the Hutus and the Tutsis, and while the dynamics of the conflict contrast, the role the western world, or lack thereof, is very similar. Cries for help by Rwandan people to western countries for intervention were mostly ignored. The western world continued to be passive about the issue until horrifying pictures and videos of countless bodies were broadcasted on mainstream media, creating an uproar from the people demanding western governments take action. But by the time help came, the genocide was already pretty much over and the damage had already been done. One would speculate that the level of devastation from this atrocity might have been less if we had helped. It leads me to question if the same thing may already be happening in Syria.
I am all for protecting our country from threats and being cautious when it comes to getting involved with countries that have hurt us in the past, but these refugees need a place to be safe. On the other hand, I understand that the issue isn’t simple. As we all know, America has more than its fair share of problems to work through, both domestically and abroad. One of those being the threat of ISIS. (Side note: I want to clarify that when I say ISIS, I do not mean Muslims as a whole, but the specific extremist group that uses the religion to justify their actions. Muslim people as a whole are given a bad rep because of this extremist group and I 100% do not condone it.) We’ve already seen how ISIS takes advantage of the compassion of other countries to sneak in and carry out attacks. There are already accusations of the same happening in the U.S., so how can we be sure that letting in the refugees won’t result in the same consequences for us? Not to mention the heightened racial tensions that would result from a lack of unanimous welcoming of the refugees. It is quite a conundrum we have been presented with. I understand both sides of the argument, but like all the other issues we fight about, this is only going to divide us more and take our efforts away from using the power we have to help. I believe that there is a solution to this that doesn’t require choosing between taking in the refugees and keeping America safe. We do have a vetting system that has proven to be mostly effective, but in all fairness, could use some reform considering how ISIS has already been able to sneak into the country. Why can’t we just reform that so we can let the refugees in? There may even be some other alternative that we haven’t thought of yet. Regardless, we can’t just stay on the sidelines. There has to be something we can do.
To be honest, with the heightened emotions associated with the subject, I’ve found it difficult to get to the bottom of what is really going on here. The news isn’t always the most reliable either. It can also be difficult to gain perspective on an issue that exists outside of the country you live in, but I suppose that is part of being a Global Engagement Fellow, learning how to become more actively informed about what is happening in the world. At the end of this post are links to a couple links I used to help me write this article. Feel free to check these out and do your own research! 🙂